A few months ago I came across an article on the Active Norfolk website asking for artefacts from past Paralympic Games. The items would be used in a local exhibition that would form the pilot of National Paralympic Heritage Trust project running over the next 5 years, funded through the National Lottery.
I thought I would ping the organisers an email to say I could loan some items for the exhibition if they were of interest. I have bags of kit and other items from the Sydney 2000 Games that have been acting as some sort of high-tech loft insulation since then. I’ve also got a 2012 London Paralympic torch from the relay and a few fancy tandems like those used by some of the current Paralympic stars.
I was surprised when I got a message back asking to meet to discuss the project and even more surprised to then be asked to get involved further. I thought I would just be loaning a few items, but I was more than pleased to say ‘yes’ as I think it’s important to put something back into sport or the community where possible.
March 24thwas the launch of the Norfolk project at Norwich Cathedral where the exhibition would be housed.
I was asked if I could speak at the launch event alongside the Chair of the national project and the Dean of the Catheradral. To be honest I wasn’t too sure what they wanted me to say. My plan was to see what the chairman said, then see what the Dean said and try to say something different..,no pressure there then!
So, with no plan (Something the Chairman seemed a little concerned about!) I give it a whirl. I decided to talk about how I first got involved in cycling, about how it took me around the World to some great places and how I’d eventually ended up in triathlon and got lucky by winning a few things. I talked about my hope that projects like this would help inform people about Paralympic sport and perhaps inspire the next generation of athletes. I finished by telling a story about a school visit I did around the time of the London Games and how it was the first time I had witnessed children so inspired by the games that they wanted to imagine themselves as amputee runner Jonny Peacock or a visually impaired runner.
Thankfully I think it went down OK…what a relief!
The cathedral provides a spectacular venue. There is plenty of space to show off the various exhibits, artefacts, displays and videos charting the history of the Paralympic movement from its beginnings in Stoke Mandaville in 1948 through to present day. My cycle jersey from the Sydney Games tandem road race is on display (I can still just about squeeze into this which I’m very proud of by the way!).
It’s been fun to also get involved with the other events on offer including a family fun day and a series of short educational sessions for a school groups. During the ‘meet a Paralympian’ sessions the children involved asked some fabulous questions, as always, but it’s been interesting to see that so many adults want to know more too. My Matrix tandem got a fair bit of attention as did all the shiny Paralympic medals and torch’s available to look at.
There also a video linked to the project that you can see here using the password NPHT.
If you’ve not visited the exhibition yet but would like to, it will be running through to 22nd May, so there’s still plenty of time.